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SWARCO Raiders win OT thriller in Graz


QB John van den Raadt scored four rushing touchdowns (Photo: Schellhorn)

It took them a blown 30-point halftime lead and two overtimes, but the SWARCO Raiders have won their ninth game in a row against the Graz Giants. The Oakland Raiders sister-team celebrated a crazy 54-51 (23-0; 14-7; 0-14; 7-23; 10-7) victory at Graz.

The Tyroleans led 37-7 at halftime, before giving up 30 points in less than two quarters. And just when the Giants looked poised to take their first lead, the SWARCO Raiders came up huge on defense and offense. But Graz was able to tie the game once again with 18 seconds left in regulation. In double-overtime the Tyroleans finally were able to secure their second win of the 2014 Austrian Football League (AFL) season.

"I'm just happy that we found a way to pull back the game. But we can't be satisfied with our performance", said SWARCO Raiders head coach Shuan Fatah. "We shifted down a gear way too early and almost had to pay for it. I'm proud of the way my team fought when our backs were pressed against the wall. They showed a great fighting spirit. This will make us stronger down the road, but there are a lot of things we have to work on".

QB John van den Raadt was the game's MVP. The California native won the game with his feet. He scored four rushing touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass. RB Andreas Hofbauer had two rushing touchdowns, including a 53-yard scoring run with 91 seconds left in regulation. WR/K Clemens Erlsbacher had 10 points (two field goals and 4 extra points). DL Philipp Margreiter had one of the team's four sacks and forced a fumble that was recovered by DL Phillip Popp. DB Markus Krause came up with a crucial interception late in the fourth quarter.

The SWARCO Raiders won the coin toss and elected to receive. DB Simon Muigg returned the opening kickoff to the 20. On the third play from scrimmage van den Raadt found Erlsbacher for 33 yards. Then Hofbauer rushed for 11 yards. Moments later Erlsbacher kicked a 44-yard field goal to give the Tyroleans a 3-0 lead with 8:59 minutes left in the first quarter.

The Giants returned the following kickoff to the 25. But two penalties and good tackling moved the ball backwards to the 11. After a punt the Tyroleans took over at midfield. A 28-yard pass from van den Raadt to WR Adrian Platzgummer gave the SWARCO Raiders a first down at the Giants 21. Then Hofbauer ran for 7 yards. On the next play WR Damaso Tarneller caught a short pass then juked his way into the endzone for a 14-yard touchdown catch. Platzgummer then scored on a two-point conversion to give the SWARCO Raiders an 11-0 lead midway through in the first quarter.

Erlsbacher's kickoff was returned to the Graz 27 by RB Alexander Sanz. On the first play from scrimmage QB Christoph Gubisch was tackled by LB Fabian Seeber for an 8-yard loss. After two incomplete passes Graz had to punt again. Erlsbacher returned Gubisch's punt 14 yards to the Giants 46. Van den Raadt opened the drive with a 14-yard pass to Tarneller. He then rushed to the 18. Two plays later van den Raadt eluded the pass rush and ran 18 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but the SWARCO Raiders extended their lead to 17-0 with about five minutes left in the first quarter.

WR Philipp Sommer returned the ensuing kickoff to the Graz 30. But yet again the Tyrolean defense did not allow a first down as they stopped the Giants on fourth and one yard to go. The offense then took over at the opposing 39. Van den Raadt found Hofbauer for a 9-yard gain. On third down van den Raadt fooled the defense again and ran 30 yards for a score. The PAT was blocked, giving the Tyroleans a 23-0 lead with 26 seconds left in the first quarter.

A touchback on the kickoff gave the Giants a first down at their own 25. Sanz ran for 8 yards and 10 yards to give Graz its first first down of the game. Then Gubisch went deep and found Sommer for a 57-yard touchdown pass. The PAT cut the SWARCO Raiders lead to 23-7 with 11:19 minutes left in the second quarter.

After a short kickoff the SWARCO Raiders started at their own 40. Van den Raadt found Platzgummer for 9 yards. A short run by the quarterback gave the Tyroleans a first down. Then Hofbauer ran to the Graz 32. But moments later the Tyroleans had to punt for the first time. Graz started at its 20. Three rushes by Sanz resulted in a fresh set of downs. After a bad snap DL Maximilian Pichler sacked Gubisch deep in his own territory. On the next play DL Korbinian Hoffmann chased down Gubisch for another sack. Graz had to punt and the Tyroleans took over at the opposing 32. On the first play from scrimmage Erlsbacher caught a 15-yard pass. After a sack van den Raadt pitched the ball to Hofbauer, who ran 22 yards for a touchdown. Erlsbacher kicked the PAT to give the SWARCO Raiders a 30-7 lead with 5:38 minutes left in the second quarter.

A short kickoff gave the Giants the ball at midfield. Gubisch started the drive with a 10-yard pass to WR Maximilian Herdey. Later he found WR Dominik Szecsi at the Tyrolean 21. But then Margreiter came through with a big sack. Gubisch lost the ball and Popp recovered the fumble at the 27. Hofbauer ran for 7 yards on the Tyroleans' first play from scrimmage. Then van den Raadt showed off his magic once more. He eluded several defenders and ran 66 yards for the touchdown. The PAT gave the Tyroleans a 37-7 lead with 3:05 minutes left in the second quarter.

Graz started the third quarter at the 25, but had to punt after three plays. The Tyroleans started their first possession of the third quarter at their 42. On the first play from scrimmage van den Raadt found Platzgummer for 25 yards. Then he ran for 5. But the drive ended with a missed 46-yard field goal.

Graz took over at its 27. Sanz ran to the 49. Then he caught a 16-yard pass from Gubisch. Afer two more completions Gubisch ran 12 yards for the touchdown. The PAT was good, cutting the SWARCO Raiders lead to 37-14 with 6:21 minutes left in the third quarter.

After yet another short kickoff the SWARCO Raiders started at their own 44. After a short run by van den Raadt the quarterback found Platzgummer for 21 yards. Then Erlsbacher caught a pass at the opposing 24. But the Tyroleans were not able to score as Erlsbacher's 47-yard field goal try was blocked. The Giants recovered the ball at their 21. Sanz started the drive with a 15-yard run. Next up was an 11-yard catch by Sommer. Then Gubisch found WR Florian Wolf at the Tyrolean 23. And a few plays later Gubisch threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Sommer. The extra point made it 37-21 SWARCO Raiders with 1:42 minutes left in the third.

The Tyroleans had to punt on their next possession, giving the Giants the ball back at midfield. Gubisch opened the series with a 16-yard pass to Wolf. Then he ran to the 30. On fourth down Sanz caught a pass at the 8 for a new set of downs. After a sack by Pichler it was yet another fourth down play that gave Graz a touchdown: Gubisch found Herdey with an 11-yard scoring pass. Herdey then caught the pass on the two-point conversion to cut the SWARCO Raiders lead to 37-29 with 9:10 minutes left in the fourth.

The SWARCO Raiders began their next drive at their own 15. Hofbauer ran for 9 yards on first down, but moments later DB Manuel Schneeweiss picked off a van den Raadt pass and returned the ball to the 9. A penalty later gave Graz the ball at the 2. Sanz scored from 2 yards out and also added the two-point conversion afterwards. That tied the game at 37-37. 7:58 minutes were still left to play in regulation.

The Tyroleans could not answer and punted again on their next drive. Starting at their 20 a pass from Gubisch to Szecsi gave the Giants a new first down at their 44. Then Herdey caught a pass at the opposing 45. Just when Graz was thinking about turning the tide Krause stepped in front of a Gubisch pass at the Tyrolean 47. On the very next play Hofbauer found a hole and sprinted 53 yards to the endzone. The touchdown and the PAT gave the SWARCO Raiders a 44-37 lead with 91 seconds left on the clock.

Erlsbacher's kickoff resulted in a touchback. Graz faced a fourth down immediately, but Gubisch found Wolf around midfield. A penalty moved the ball to the Tyrolean 33. On the very next play Graz received a 15-yard penalty. But Gubisch kept calm and found Sanz underneath, who ran to the 16. Facing another fourth down the Giants came through again. This time Gubisch threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to WR Armando Ponce de Leon. The PAT tied the game with 18 seconds left in the fourth.

Graz began overtime with its offense. On the very first play from scrimmage a penalty cost them 10 yards. And three plays later the Giants needed a miracle on fourth and 20. Gubisch's pass fell incomplete, but a holding penalty gave Graz new life. On the next play Sanz ran 14 yards. And then he ran up the middle for an 11-yard score. The extra point gave the Giants their first lead of the game: 51-44.

Hofbauer started the Tyroleans first OT possession with an 18-yard run. On the very next play van den Raadt scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the game – this time from 7 yards out. Erlsbacher's PAT made it 51-51.

The SWARCO Raiders started the second overtime with a 15-yard run by van den Raadt. On third down from the 10 Tarneller received the ball and ran around left end to the 1-yard line. The Tyroleans did not gamble and took Erlsbacher's 20-yard field goal to take a 54-51 lead.

Now the pressure was on Graz. Two rushes by Sanz gained 6 yards. On third down Gubisch overthrew an open receiver in the endzone. The Giants gambled on fourth down once more, but this time the Tyroleans were ready. Margreiter flushed Gubisch out of the pocket and chased him to the sideline. The quarterback's desperation pass fell incomplete, sealing the victory for the SWARCO Raiders.

On Saturday, May 3 the Tyroleans host the Raiffeisen Vikings Vienna. Kickoff at Innsbruck's Tivoli Stadium is at 8:00 a.m. PT (5:00 p.m. CET).

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